Dylan Thomas’s ‘Do not go gentle into that good night’ is a poem written to his father, who at the time was dying. Thomas instead of telling his father to accept death with gracefulness and acceptance, urges him desperately to cling on to his life. Each stanza of the poem shows different views of death from different people, ‘wise men’, ‘good men’, ‘wild men’ and ‘grave men’. They all differ in every way except from one, which is that they have to struggle to hold onto life.
The poem opens with a real sense of grief and anger. The words ‘Do not go gentle into that good night’ are an order to his father, which strongly encourages his father not to accept death without a fight. In ‘Do not go gentle’ it is a moving plea to his dying father; death takes on a new and immensely personal meaning for Thomas. It publicly supports the policy of affirming life up until the last breath, rather than learning to accept death quietly.
‘Old age should burn and rave at close of day’ meaning that Thomas is telling his father that people who have spent their life and grown old should see what a gift life is; he says that dying people- more than others- should fight against death and scream out their final words, not passively pass on. At the end of stanza one instead of a negative tone it ends with a positive one. ‘Rage, rage against the dying light’. Thomas is saying that (you), ‘rage against the dying light’, that you struggle to keep the dying light alive.
The ‘light’ at the end of the first stanza is a representation of Thomas’ fathers’ life or his soul. Thomas has written it in a way of desperation. The second stanza opens with Thomas knowing that for some death is a right and peaceful end, but even these ‘wise men’ know that there is a finality to it; ‘their words forked no lightning’. Clearly they haven’t tricked themselves into thinking otherwise. They too do ‘not go gentle into that good night’- almost a sense that Thomas feels cheated here, how can death or heaven be good when it takes his father’s life?
The following three stanzas again repeat the same anguish- ‘good men’, ‘wild men’ and ‘grave men near death’ all ‘rage’ against the end of their lives – Thomas suggests that all of them still have much to offer the world. The ‘good men’ have ‘frail deeds’ which might still ‘dance’. The ‘wild men’ who sing with the sun, learn ‘too late’ that they have let it go too early and ‘Grave men’ with eyes that are still ‘blind’ are capable of allowing them to ‘blaze’ and ‘rage against the dying light’. In the final stanza, Thomas moves from general to particular; his father.